The Sydney Swans remain the most supported club in the AFL, with 1.1 million supporters according to the 2019 annual Roy Morgan AFL club supporters survey.
However, the Swans still managed to lose 74,000 supporters (down 6.3 per cent) from a year ago.
Still, it was worse news for the Gold Coast Suns. According to the research, it has only 35,000 supporters, down a staggering 57.8 per cent year on year.
Several clubs increased their support over the last year including 2018 Premiers West Coast Eagles, surprise 2018 Preliminary Finalists Melbourne and this year’s ‘bolter’ the second-placed Brisbane Lions.
Reigning AFL Premiers West Coast Eagles had the biggest increase lifting their support base by a huge 186,000 (34 per cent) to 733,000 to be Australia’s second most widely supported AFL club.
Melbourne surprised many by getting within one victory of a first Grand Final in nearly two decades in 2018 and this run to the Preliminary Final has helped boost Melbourne’s support by 44,000 (22.2 per cent) to 242,000 while the Brisbane Lions have increased their support by 84,000 (19.5 per cent) to 515,000.
Richmond, Melbourne, Gold Coast and Hawthorn are best at converting supporters
Although it is no surprise to see the traditionally well-supported clubs such as the Sydney Swans, Collingwood, Essendon, Adelaide and West Coast at the top of the overall AFL club supporter ladder, a key metric for AFL clubs is their ability to convert their latent supporters into financial members that directly benefit the clubs.
A record 1.06 million Australians have taken out AFL club memberships in 2019 and the table below ranks clubs based on how effective they are at converting their supporters into financial members based on dividing the (official AFL club memberships divided by Roy Morgan supporter numbers) x 100.
On this important metric it is the supporters of one of the AFL’s newest clubs the Gold Coast Suns who are most committed to their team converting 39 per cent of their supporters to become club members – which is unfortunately for the Suns the lowest in the league at only 13,649.
Three Victorian clubs all have impressive conversion rates of over 20 per cent led by the club with the AFL’s highest membership tally the 2017 AFL Premiers Richmond with a conversion rate of 22.8 per cent. Despite having the longest Premiership drought of all current clubs Melbourne Football Club converts 21.7 per centof their supporters to become members just ahead of Hawthorn with a conversion rate of 20.9 per cent. All three of these Melbourne based clubs call the MCG their home ground.
Melbourne still living off 1950s Flags although a new generation of supporters is arising
In 2019 the quintessential supporter of the oldest football club in the land is well-educated, Victorian, and with a diploma or degree under his belt. Yes, he’s more likely to be male than female. He’s a young parent under 35 years old with pre-school aged children and likely following in the footsteps of his Melbourne supporting parents – Melbourne supporters are also over-represented amongst the over 65s who were around to experience the club’s last successful period in the 1950s and 1960s.
In terms of the Roy Morgan Values Segments he’s more likely than the average Australian to be in either the Traditional Family Life or Conventional Family Life – ‘the core of middle Australia with values centred around significant events. Within ‘Conventional Family Life’ exists the great Australian dream of owning your own home in the suburbs and driving a good solid car.’
He’s far more likely than the average Australian to agree that ‘Terrorists deserve the same rights as other criminals’ and think ‘threats to the environment are exaggerated’. He also has a charitable streak and is more likely than the average Australian to agree ‘a percentage of everyone’s income should go to charities’ and ‘tries to buy Australian made products as often as possible’.
Our favourite Melbourne supporter is more likely than the average Australian to order pizza or other foods for home delivery, and head out for a rock or pop music concert or jazz, classical or blues performance or enjoy some live theatre. As well as watching the AFL on TV he also likes to watch other sports including golf, cricket, soccer, the Olympic Games and car racing.
isbane Lions supporters are looking forward to a new era of success after a lean period
Supporters of the Brisbane Lions are emerging from hibernation in 2019 with the AFL’s northernmost club set to play finals again for the first time in a decade this September. Over two-thirds of Brisbane Lions supporters are men and support for the Lions is particularly strong amongst Generation X now aged in their 40s and 50s.
The characteristic Lions supporter is far more likely than the average Australian to have a high school education, work full-time and have an average household income of $110K. He’s in a Mid-Life household with teenage kids and likely in the Visible Achievement Roy Morgan Values Segment – ‘Despite being successful they retain traditional values about home, work & society. The family is very important to this Segment and they place great emphasis on providing their families with a high quality environment.’
Our quintessential Lions supporter is far more likely than the average Australian ‘to love to do as many sports as possible’, ‘to always read the business section of the newspaper’ and ‘quite often finds TV advertising more entertaining than the programs’. He’s also more likely to ‘keep up-to-date with new ideas to improve his home’.
He’s not only twice as likely as the average Australian to attend professional sporting events such as following his favourite footy team but also to play a game of pool, snooker or billiards and far more likely than most to go to RSL or Leagues clubs. Being a northern States AFL supporter doesn’t mean disregarding the other football codes and he’s far more likely to watch other football codes including rugby union, the NRL and soccer on TV than the average Australian.